By Senior Airman Daniel Durbin, 419th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 20, 2007
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah --
Capt. James Harrison, the 419th Fighter Wing Operations Group Executive Officer, is well known for his affinity for fitness. In addition to being the group's fitness monitor, Captain Harrison is also a competitive marathon runner.
"I thought, 'I'll run one and see if I like it,'" Captain Harrison said. "Afterwards, I thought, 'that was crazy, why did I do that,'" he remarked with a laugh.
Captain Harrison said his father-in-law's devotion to marathons was his original motivation to try one. Three years ago, Captain Harrison began reading marathon training manuals and getting into a training regimen.
Training for a marathon takes an incredible amount of dedication. To begin with, Captain Harrison said he ran interval laps to get used to the exact speed he wanted for his run. Eventually, he worked up to more challenging distances.
Some days he may only run five miles, but near the end of his training program, he runs 20 to 24 miles in one day of training to prepare for the rigors of a full marathon.
"You can just turn on the MP3 player, listen to music, let the cares of the world go, and just run," said Captain Harrison. "It's a release."
Captain Harrison said that persistence paid off, and is now currently running in Utah's "Grand Slam," a four-marathon event, with about five weeks between each marathon. The event began in May with the Ogden Marathon, and ends in October with the St. George Marathon.
The second marathon event of the Grand Slam, The Deseret News Marathon, is slated for Tuesday.
"You don't start out with a marathon," said Captain Harrison. "A lot of people today want instant gratification, that's not the way running is."
One of the best training exercises available to people who want to get energized about running is a 5k competition, said Captain Harrison. A 5k run does not require extensive training, but usually gets people motivated to keep running and improve their fitness.
As a fitness monitor, Captain Harrison says he has seen positive results from Airmen who want to improve their physical training scores when they use the same interval training regimen he used to train for marathons.
Senior Master Sgt. Sara Drake, the wing's command post superintendent, said Captain Harrison's dedication to marathon running is impressive for many reasons.
"He's dedicated to it and he truly loves it," said Sergeant Drake. "I admire his dedication to share it with others."
Sergeant Drake said she asked Captain Harrison for help to improve her personal run time for the fitness test, and he helped bring her run time up using his training program.
"I'm not a runner," said Sergeant Drake. "I run because the Air Force tells me to run and I'm a senior NCO, so I will pass no matter what it takes."
Sergeant Drake said that Captain Harrison's devotion to physical fitness is infectious, and his willingness to help a person is resolute.
"He'll go out and run with me and give me tips," said Sergeant Drake. "He never gave up on me, even when I gave up on myself. His program kicked my butt," she said with a laugh.
Captain Harrison said that building up physical fitness takes time, dedication, and above all, mental toughness.
"Running is all mental," said Captain Harrison. "You forget the pain and you remember the exhilaration of accomplishing something pretty awesome."